Rest Day and my thoughts on Mountain Fuel: Saturday 25th July
With Corvara all done we headed for Sapada where we would pit ourselves against some of the hardest and most infamous climbs of the trip. Once there we met with Chris Mulliner who had come to join us for the second half of the trip and also said farewell to Dom who left the hard riding in the mountains behind for soaking up the sun in Venice. With nothing more to say about the day, maybe apart from the confusion over which Sapada we were collecting Mullsy from lead to great confusion, I’ll say a little more about the Mountain Fuel.
I don’t use any fuel on such a regular basis at home as I do on a trip so it’s hard to compare against any other fuels I have used in the past however that’s not what I’m here to do. The most important thing about any fuel for me is peace of mind that you’re getting your nutrition right and not having to worry as much about what else you need to eat to keep you going and aiding recovery. Having Mountain Fuel certainly makes planning your ride food a little easier. During the trip my day to day plan would be as follows:
Morning fuel for breakfast, mostly just a little with the milk in my cereal, on big days I’d have a full sachet and also drink a little of the energy fuel before setting off to make sure I was fully prepared for the first hour or so. I had one bottle of energy fuel with me each day which I’d aim to drink after my first bottle of water so that it fuelled me later on. And finally I’d have a recovery fuel most days having more on the harder one. In addition I had a couple of night fuels towards the end of the trip when I was starting to really suffer with fatigue.
The strategy seemed to work and I did notice its affects. Firstly I certainly didn’t fatigue as quickly as the previous year and seemed to get stronger compared to the others throughout the trip, possibly due to the recovery fuel. Secondly I certainly noticed the slow release of the energy fuel when we would do multiple climbs in a day. On the first I would often feel good and be able to set a rhythm all the way up with the aid of drinking a bottle over the course of the climb. But then on the second hours later and when I was out of fuel I’d often have several bonks and surges in pace as the sugars in whatever else I was frantically eating came and went. I would have liked to have changed my strategy do have a second bottle however I hadn’t brought quite enough Mountain fuel with me so had to make it last. In future I would definitely recommend having more bottles of fuel, having a full one before setting off and also not holding back on the morning fuel or recovery fuel. I guess I was slightly cautious with the amounts having had no experience with the product before and miscalculating how much I needed. Now having established it works well for me I certainly will be using it to its full potential in future!
Tappa 7: Sunday 26th July – https://www.strava.com/activities/354551005
The double header of the Monte Zoncolan and the Monte Crostis was possibly the most epic day of the trip. The side of the Zoncolan out of Ovara has a reputation as one of, if not the hardest, climbs in professional cycling, only 10km but averaging 12% and containing long stretches at over 20%, it certainly lived up to its reputation. (One of the ascents from the other side is even steeper averaging 13%, too hard for professional cycling!). I must say I rather enjoyed it though, the atmosphere as you follow the narrow hairpins up through the trees and see all the writing left from the Giro d’Italia on the roads is quite something. Being used to the steep inclines of the Lakes the gradient suited me well, I was only second to Ruari and placed in the top 30 on Strava putting many of the professionals behind me. I don’t care if they were just tapping at the end of a long day and a long 3 week race, it still feels good! Next up after a lovely lunch stop was Monte Crostis, a fabled Giro d’Italia climb which has never actually been in the Giro! Scheduled to be part of it in 2011, it was controversially removed the day before it was due to be raced due to safety concerns. However it was safe enough for us. The small road winding up through the trees before giving way to beautiful views of the valley near the summit was one of the most epic of the trip, not only because of the atmosphere but also because of the difficulty. With us all being so focused on the infamous Zoncolan we had perhaps overlooked the Crostis which was infact nearly as hard as the Zoncolan itself, especially since we didn’t have fresh legs. Only Ruari, Matthias and I made the summit, the other electing to skip the climb all together. If I told you we had to stop midway down simply to give our arms a rest it might give you an impression of the difficulty of the days climbs and the steepness of their gradients!
Tappa 8: Monday July 27th – https://www.strava.com/activities/355205608
With all the big climbs in Sapada ticked off we drove down to Monte Grappa. The temperature was up again but not as bad as we had initially in Trento. After settling in at the campsite we took the afternoon to go for a little spin out to Croce d’Aune. It’s a fairly small and unremarkable climb famous only for the monument at its summit which commemorates Tullio Campagnolo and his invention of the quick release. The rest of the day was spent putting our feet up at the campsite.
Tappa 9: Tuesday July 28th – https://www.strava.com/activities/355975596
The days focus was purely on the Monte Grappa, popular with cyclists but most famous for its war graves at the summit after it was the scene of fierce battle during the First World War. You can take your pick of 9 different routes to the summit, all vastly different in character and difficultly. Unfortunately, as Chris Green had broken his rear mech hanger we had to drive round the base to Grappa to find a bike shop, however we took the opportunity to tackle the two most well-known ascents from that side. First was the most gentle, and chosen route for many, treating us to shallow gradients and lovely weather. That was however only up until the cloud covered summit; we wouldn’t actually see the summit without cloud in any of our rides up there. As it was cold we promptly descended via a different route which, after a quick café stop, we came straight back up. This climb was much harder, slightly shorter than the first but much steeper! I was feeling good and had saved a bottle of energy fuel for the ascent which definitely seemed to power me onto the summit. Again we descended quickly, this time a few of us going over the other side of the mountain to come out near our campsite leaving the others to drive the camper back round.
Tappa 10: Wednesday July 29th – https://www.strava.com/activities/356539610
We were all very tired by this point in the trip so an easy day was in order, obviously that means just the one trip up the Grappa! We took the easy side closest to the campsite and tootled up with a lovely following tail wind making things that bit more enjoyable. It was nice to relax and take in the views, although still none from the top with the cloud up there! After a possibly unwise stop at the top, during which we got rather cold, we soon found out how kind the tailwind had been! At least we warmed up again fairly quickly. I elected to take a slightly different route down on a much smaller and quieter route, not that the other route was busy in the slightest of course. Was I glad we hadn’t come up that way! Steep, narrow, and with poor road surface in places, it would have been quite a challenge. The atmosphere was great though, felt complexly along in the Jurassic Park style tree covered valley.
Tappa 11: Thursday July 30th – https://www.strava.com/activities/357445553
For our last bid day of the trip we neatly rounded things off by bookending the major passes we’d conquered with another trip up the Manghen. This time we tackled it from the other side to that previously, and with the Passo Rolle on the way. The route was bang on 100 miles which was ideal, a good trip always needs a Century and we couldn’t of asked for a better one. I struggled a bit on the Rolle, the legs tired and needing time to get warmed up however I felt better after the lunch time café stop and pressed on up the Manghen. It has to be one of my favourites rides, the roads and scenery are hard to beat. After a late café stop in the sun after the Manghen we made the most of the tailwind and barrelled back down the valley at a blistering pace taking turns keep the relentless pace going. Exhausted, I struggled to hold the others wheels but manged to cling on. On nearing the campsite one final test remained, a short punchy climb which we shot up so fast we thought we might not be able to keep upright on the hairpins. The race was suddenly on, all of us imagining this was the stage finish (which it effectively was). After cresting the hill it was downhill all the way to Arsie where we headed straight for the bar!
Tappa 12: Friday July 31st – https://www.strava.com/activities/357946520
After the hard day the day before our only goal for the day was to make the most of the sun and find a nice café or two, still by bike of course. A 18km Hor Cat climb later we found a delightful little café and got the cappuccinos in before 11 (golden rule of coffee in Italy). We could have stayed there in the sun all day. After we eventually made a move again I elected to turn back, feeling absolutely exhausted. I perhaps regret that now, or rather the fact the other stopped at another café for more food. Anyway after getting all packed up at the site we drove onto Grappa for a lovely evening’s meal followed by an awful nights sleep in the van in the middle of town. At least it was the last!
All in all the trip was a great success, Moutain Fuel made a big difference to me although I would bring more with me next time! The Dolomites have to be my favourite area to cycle I’ve visited so far. The nature of the roads, often small and very scenic (a contrast to some of the motorways of French alpine passes) and the Italian culture the main reasons. My favourite area has to be our visit to Corvara. The scenery was spectacular and the amount of riding hard to beat. I’d love to go back there for a short trip, perhaps stay in a hotel rather than the camper van! That is one thing that I struggle with at times, 6 of us in a small space is bound to be too much at times, especially for two weeks. However it is cheap and allows us to be flexible, maybe when we’re all older and have more money we can rethink. To anybody else thinking of going out there I can’t recommend it highly enough, be some of the best riding you do!